I’ve been on Facebook for a little less than a year, ostensibly to track my teenaged daughter’s web presence but I’ve also discovered it’s fun to catch up with people I haven’t seen in (sadly) decades. In the past year I’ve ranged from excited, to interested, to resigned, and then bored with the banality of it all. Facebook has engendered increasing concern over their somewhat mercurial notions of user privacy. Interestingly, there appears to be an alternative on the horizon that is both Open Source and user-driven: Diaspora.
(quoting from psfk.com, all rights reserved)
The idea behind Diaspora* is to place existing networking technologies back into the hands of their users, to let them determine the types and styles of information they want to share. The New York Times reports:
“In our real lives, we talk to each other,” he said. “We don’t need to hand our messages to a hub. What Facebook gives you as a user isn’t all that hard to do. All the little games, the little walls, the little chat, aren’t really rare things. The technology already exists.”
Diaspora* software will allow users to develop custom, personal servers, called seeds, forming a decentralized flow of data. This is a valuable commodity among an increasingly informed user base, as the New York Times explains:
“The terms of the bargain people make with social networks— you swap personal information for convenient access to their sites—have been shifting, with the companies that operate the networks collecting ever more information about their users. That information can be sold to marketers.
‘When you give up that data, you’re giving it up forever,” Mr. [Max] Salzberg [one of the Diaspora* developers] said. “The value they give us is negligible in the scale of what they are doing, and what we are giving up is all of our privacy.’”